Hotels, fitness clubs, tour bus companies, and minor league baseball clubs are part of a long line of businesses seeking billions of dollars in new COVID relief aid in response to the Omicron variant surge, if they can overcome opposition from many Republicans who say Congress has already given enough. Lobbyists for the businesses say their campaign has taken on new urgency as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country, forcing many companies to scale back or shut down operations as employees call in sick and customers cancel orders and reservations. A few Republican lawmakers support more relief funding for targeted industries, but most are generally opposed to spending more funds to help struggling businesses. These opponents say that the government has already provided sufficient relief, including more than $900 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program, and that more government spending will fuel inflation and budget deficits. “The U.S. government has no money to give anyone,“ said Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). ”In the past two years, Congress piled on several trillion dollars to our already substantial deficit. This unprecedented accumulation of debt is causing today’s inflation and will continue to wreak havoc in the future.”
Lobbyists for those seeking aid, which also includes restaurants and Broadway stage productions, contend that their clients were left out of previous relief efforts or didn’t get nearly enough to cover losses. Industry lobbyists are targeting legislation being crafted by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, who had found an ally in Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) for a bill that would deliver roughly $60 billion in grants from the Small Business Administration.
Efforts to provide COVID relief assistance appear to have support in the House. Nearly 100 Democratic and Republican lawmakers signed a letter in December calling for help for businesses. Prospects are sketchier in the Senate. Under modern Senate procedures, most legislation needs 60 votes for approval. Democrats and their allies control 50 votes, so Senator Ben Cardin is seeking to sweeten the stimulus bill with provisions that can draw the support of 10 Republicans. He has the support of roughly a half-dozen Republicans so far.
Lobbyists for various industries are angling to add their COVID relief proposals to a large appropriations bill that Congress must approve by mid-February to fund the government for the current fiscal year. But that too could prove tricky. Most Republican lawmakers say they are not eager for more government spending, though that could change if the Omicron surge further disrupts the economy and forces business closures and layoffs.